Submitted by Frank Ellis, Fred Kincaid, Fred O’Leary and Joe Paradi

An Introduction to SCReW
Article 2 of a series…

This is the second in a series of articles on SCReW — the Standard Corkscrew Reference Work. In the first article the concept of a universal classification system was presented, together with some historical background and illustrations of various applications. Our developmental work has since grown into a massive data entry project involving many collectors internationally. The goal is to catalogue all significant corkscrews in a giant databank — in effect representing a theoretical collection of all the corkscrews in the world! This databank, which is distributed on a CD-ROM, can be accessed by collectors everywhere using Microsoft operating systems. Version 1.0 was the first release that came in the Fall, 2001 – the latest, released in August 2011 is a complete rewrite of the old system and is a major improvement on it we refer to is as SB8.

What made this enormous undertaking feasible was the confluence of three factors: (1) need, (2) technology, and (3) circumstance.

(1) Need. From personal experience and observation it is clear that collectors devote a lot of time and energy to record keeping. Much of the data is universal, meaning the work of researching and recording in the privacy of our homes is often duplicated. How much easier, consistent and accurate it would be if data were to be entered once and stored in perpetuity, to be drawn upon over and over again on command by individuals tapping into this central depository of knowledge. It would expand our horizons, open up communication for trading/buying/selling – or just sharing war stories. It would become the basis for a permanent record for appraisals, insurance, estates, asset diversification, inheritance, and security. As our hobby (and ourselves) mature, these are important issues having far-reaching implications for our families and heirs.

(2) Technology. The advances in computer technology and communication have been astounding, allowing us to store and transfer data virtually without limit. Such capabilities did not exist when many of us first started keeping track of our collections. What used to be something we did in private can now take place on a world stage.

(3) Circumstance. Theory is one thing, proof another. To validate our work on classification, we needed to plug real live corkscrews into real live records. Somewhere during the testing process the idea emerged to go all the way. With the springboard of a new challenge, together with the cooperation of the many volunteers, SCReW has become a tool used everyday by many.

To illustrate the threshold of opportunity upon which we now stand, let’s first examine the old way of doing things. It will likely be some variation of the following: You find a corkscrew at a flea market. Prior to SCReW you would have recorded your purchase in your own “system”. Whatever the classification basis, you would have entered a number, description, date of purchase, price, size and condition. You probably would have noted any marking, which, if denoting a manufacturer and/or patent, would have required sourcing further information, probably from a book, then entering the relevant data into the record. It might even have involved some guess work, whether or not anyone is willing to admit it. At any rate, with this procedure repeating itself in one form or another over and over and over throughout the world, it is obvious that, collectively, an enormous amount time and energy is being expended doing a lot of the same thing.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Is it really necessary to re-invent the wheel every time we add a corkscrew to our collection? A Perille found in France, or Germany, or England, or the US… is still a Perille, with essentially the same dossier.

Now imagine another scenario. With your new corkscrew in hand, you call up the SCReW program from your computer. You check the corkscrew’s likely Class/Type/style from your manual outline, then scan the Index for a title that fits your piece. Or you may find it handier doing a key-word search by clicking on the search button. Either way, after a few hits, you open up a record and voila! You find from the description and picture that it is a match — maybe a different color or a different shaped handle than yours, but it is clearly the right one. If you have the CORKSCREW COLLECTOR (CC for short) database program, you can start it up and enter the SCReWCode you just found and then, you can transfer the entire record into your own database in CC, which automatically enters the classification code number, description, variations, marking, operation, patent and manufacturer data, book references, and any interesting historical notes about that piece – to learn more about this software, click here. If you are using another database, all the information is there for the taking or remains at your disposal as a permanent reference. You have now created a record of pertinent and hopefully accurate information for all time. All that remains is to enter your price, date of purchase, size, condition, and any personal information you may wish to include. In the case of CC, everything goes into dedicated fields formatted into the record by the program itself. If you have the means you can also substitute your own picture for the generic picture in the SCReW record. There is also a place to record continuing market value, so you can update your collection’s bottom line for insurance and estate purposes, or for whatever personal use you may have for this knowledge (like being able to answer the question, “How many corkscrews do you have?”).

Simple… fast… efficient… accurate… and ready to go now! While SCReW will always be a work in progress, as more and more corkscrews emerge into the light of day, at present there are about 7,800 records and counting, that’s plenty of beef to get you started. Whatever your interest, whether you are a beginning collector or advanced, regardless of your comfort level with “the technology thing”, SCReW is the most powerful and useful tool we have ever had in our field. It will never replace books and articles for historical research, specialization, and in-depth analysis, but it will do the grunt work of maintaining a modern collection.  Here is sample of a SB8 page:

We invite your scrutiny and questions, some of which are anticipated below.


Do I have to use CORKSCREW COLLECTOR with SCReW?

No. SCReW can be used as a stand-alone reference or as a companion to CORKSCREW COLLECTOR. Whether or not to link the two is entirely up to the individual. While SCReW is formatted to be compatible with CORKSCREW COLLECTOR, you may chose to ignore it. We know everyone brings a different experience to the table. Some may choose to stay with their own system permanently; others may wish to give SCReW a try first before converting to CORKSCREW COLLECTOR. The purpose of any system is to find and sort things, not create structure. You end up with whatever arrangement works best for you.

How was the classification system decided?

The guiding principle is “essence”. It means seeking a universal perception of what a corkscrew is, based on experience, lore, evolved nomenclature and common sense. Rather than applying rigid formulas and abstract constructs, we look into the innate nature of a corkscrew — at the whole, so to speak, rather than the parts. The decision may be more intuitive than technical. While not always crystal clear, it is often the most direct and obvious route to consensus. We have had our squabbles, but the “essence” criterion has proven to be a remarkably effective discipline.

That still seems a little fuzzy. There must be some rules and guidelines.

True. We have not escaped hierarchy completely. Some rules are necessary. The ingeniousness of corkscrew inventors has seen to that! But we have laboured to keep them to a minimum, lest the system become too intrusive, bogged down and complex, requiring an interpretive manual that must be constantly referenced and/or memorized. For example, mechanical advantage pre-empts all other considerations. A “Hootch Owl” is a Lever, not a Combination Tool nor Figural. The SCReW “Decision Tree“, a handy visual aid issued as part of the kit, leads the user through the process of applying the few but necessary rules we have had to adopt.

Why so many Classes?

The number of classes is a function of the definitions used. At the extremes, broad general definitions result in a relatively small number of large classes that do not allow for subtle (and possibly critical) internal distinctions. Tight definitions produce more purity within a class, but require more of them, thereby defeating the function of classification in the first place. No approach is right or wrong. The total number of corkscrews within the system as a whole remains the same, regardless of the basis of subdivision. The system must be judged by what works best for the collector community as a whole, not how broad or technically precise the classes or processes are. It must be simple enough to appeal to the beginner and complex enough to accommodate the needs of the expert. It must distribute a large number of records into logical and understandable sectors, avoiding a few extremely large groupings or many smaller “groups” of one or two. Recognizing that there are both generalists and engineers in our universe, it is a compromise between art and science.

Why so few Classes?

See answer above.

How are the Classes subdivided?

Into Type and style. Thus each corkscrew can be identified by a Class/Type/style creating small, manageable subgroups disbursed throughout the system.

What is Type?

Types are unique to each Class, making use of the natural distinctions that exist within a primary grouping. There may be many or few Types depending on the nature of the Class itself. We have found that what works for one Class generally does not hold for another. Type generally designates function.

What is style?

Style tends to be more universal, providing sub-sets of Types spread across many classes. Style often designates material.

Can I find a corkscrew in SCReW without bothering with the classification?

Yes. SCReW has a search function which enables you to find a corkscrew through a key word. This can sometimes be a faster route to finding an individual record.

Explain the classification code.

The classification code (SCReW Code) is the permanent and exclusive code established for every corkscrew in the system. It consists of the Class/Type/style designated by letter (capital letters for Class and Type, small letter for style) followed by a three-digit number, e.g. ABc123. For the most part the letters represent the first letter of the title word (M = Mechanical, F = Figural, b = brass, etc.), making it easy to identify the categories by the letter alone. Numbers are assigned with the broad intent of keeping similar things together in series — in the “family”, or at least “neighbourhood”, so to speak. This is important when visually scanning the Index, which has a limited number of lines visible on the screen at one time.

Do I have to use the SCReW Code?

Regardless of the database you use, every corkscrew in SCReW will carry the preassigned code of three letters and three digits. If you have CORKSCREW COLLECTOR, you add your own number and/or letter to the end of the SCReW Code, which will identify your piece and also accommodate variations and duplicates. If you are using your own database you can assign your own number and use the SCReW Code strictly as a means of locating the record in SCReW. Remember, SCReW is not a program. It is a store of information — a reference work — to be used at your own pleasure.

What if I find/have a corkscrew that is not in SCReW?

Congratulations. It may be rare! If you are using CORKSCREW COLLECTOR, you assign a number in the 900s which are reserved for temporary holding purposes. Eventually you will submit new discoveries for assignment of a permanent number – this is done about once a year. You can then change your own record accordingly.

What does a SCReW record look like?

Like the CORKSCREW COLLECTOR format, SCReW records are organized in fields dedicated to specific types of data (manufacturer, patents, book references, etc.). Everything is in the same location on every record, so you get used to finding what you want quickly. This also allows you to search and sort fields so that individual records can be located and/or compared. CORKSCREW COLLECTOR users will find that many fields are pre-programmed with choices, accessible by drop-down menu. Rather than type in the relevant information, all you have to do is click on the entry you wish to appear in the field. It is a nice shortcut that maintains consistency throughout the database.

What if I disagree with data in the SCReW record?

Then ignore it! You control what information you want to accept or reject from SCReW. While changes cannot be made unilaterally to the CD-ROM, you can submit revisions and updates for future releases.

Does SCReW provide information beyond individual records?

Yes. Each Class contains a series of generic records (the 000 records) that provide interesting and essential background information about the Class. Using examples and illustrations, here the rationale for that classification is summarized, with historical and functional context. The 000 record explains the basis for that group’s numbering arrangement, making it easier to follow the Index. Comparisons of highly specific details are made which can be referred back to from individual records. For example, if six different bells have been identified for Williamson Self-Pullers. The 000 record pictures them all together.

What about other languages?

English is the only language supported in the new SB8 edition of SCReWBase.  As usual users rule the things we do and collectors with mother tongues other than English emphatically told us that the effort to translate records is not something they are interested in, so to forget the whole thing.  We did.

Why not wait until SCReW is completed?

Unlike a book, which becomes frozen in time and space the moment it is published, SCReW will never be finished. Data on “new” and existing corkscrews will be added as the information becomes available, allowing you to upgrade your files continually. The right time to tap into SCReW is now, and will always be.

What is the price?

SCReW is a “Bundle” where you get both SCReWBase and Corkscrew Collector as they are completely integrated.  The price for 2011 is $210 US — about the same as most major books on corkscrews.  And, you can buy one from the website here.

Where does the money go?

The money goes for technical, programming and production costs, none flows to any of the folks who put their labour of love into these two programs. Based on the collective amount of time, energy and “expertise” that has gone into research and data entry, it’s an incredible bargain!

Is there anything in it for the volunteers?

Not one cent. There is plenty of personal satisfaction, though, for being a part of such a great cause.